Dear friends in Christ,

The Lord now speaks my language! This is an expression of joy that is often exclaimed by individuals and communities when they first receive a translation of the Bible in their own language. The gift of the Spirit on Pentecost to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people in their own language continues today. This takes place when Bible societies such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or Lutheran Bible Translators publish a new translation, but also when believers, evangelists, and pastors share the Good News face to face in the language of the people. The Spirit works through the printed Word, the publicly proclaimed Word, and the Word of one-on-one witness to kindle and strengthen faith in the hearers.

At our CLET seminary in Dapaong, we gather faithful men from all over countries in Africa where French is the official language of government, education, and business. However, in most of these countries the French language is not the first language of the people; most people speak one or more local languages before they learn and use French in school. Many countries have dozens of local languages and the most neutral and efficient way to unite diverse populations – who frequently have violent histories between one another - is to force everyone to step outside of their comfortzone to speak a “foreign” language, French. A negative side to this sort of policy is that as certain members of the population gain access to higher education and professional opportunities, they will set aside their local languages more and more and they lose the ability to think and communicate well in the mindset of their elders and relatives in the village. A well-educated person may be able to speak and communicate very clearly and efficiently in French, but if he or she begins to try to communicate with less educated friends and relatives in their local language, the person may no longer understand the nuances and the vocabulary needed to express himself or herself clearly. Certainly, they may be using words that are intelligible to the hearers, but they are actually speaking and thinking in French, just using the local words. Often these conversations do not make sense. You may have had a similar experience if you have read the poorly-translated label of a product from China – often known as “Chinglish.” Running a phrase through Google translate or Facebook online will also often give confusing results.

Of course, the best way to avoid this kind of language confusion is to train pastors and local leaders in their local languages. Many missionaries and Bible translators did and still do just that. Missionaries take years to learn and master a language to evangelize and to provide faithful translations. However, for a regional seminary such as CLET, we simply cannot do that. According to our current twenty-eight students, among them there are over fifty local African languages that they speak and understand to varying degrees. It would be impossible for our faculty to master those languages to teach in the three years the students are with us at CLET. So, we de what is most efficient, we teach in French – a language they all speak at a conversant level. But we do not want the students to leave the CLET knowing all the good theology they studied in French, but impaired in their ability to transmit these teachings faithfully to their parishes and fellow church leaders. This is why at the same time we encourage the students to gain knowledge, leadership, and technology skills, we also encourage them to stay rooted in their local languages in their student groups and in their families. We encourage the students to pray and do devotions with each other in their local languages. Often in class the students are given assignments that require translating vocabulary lists of theological terms into their local languages. To do this, though, they need access to the Bible in their own languages. Bibles in local languages are often expensive and reprints are quickly sold out and distributed. Before students come to CLET they often leave their only Bible back home for their families or other church leaders to use in ministry. It is too difficult to search for and obtain printed copies of all of the Bible translations that would be needed for the students. What to do?

We recently discovered that the Bible translation organization Wycliffe Togo has tablets available that contain commentaries and Bible translation tools. On November 20, 21, and 22 two tech assistants from Wycliffe came to CLET to offer a workshop on the use of the tablets on the Android platform and to teach the students about various Bible apps. Now each student can have access to numerous African languages on their tablets for immediate use. The tablets will be easier to take back to their home countries than heavy printed Bibles. The students now have access to several Bibles without overcrowding their desks and workspaces. The tablets also lessen noisy distractions from the turning of pages during class.

We hope and pray that our students will be able to incorporate more of their local languages with their teaching in French and their theological conversations, resulting in them being easily able to cross the cultural and communication bridge from the seminary in their home countries.

May the Spirit continue to work through the Lord's people in their witness in word and deed to His love and mercy in Jesus Christ!

In Christ,

Rev. Jacob W. Gaugert
Centre Luthérien D'Études Theologiques
B.P. 53

Togocell # (+228) 93 43 95 26
T-Mobile Intl. # (262) 271-3813

About our Missionary ...

Reverend Jacob W. Gaugert was ordained in April, 2010. at Dr. Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in theological and classical languages. He attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana for two years and spent an acedemic year as Vicar for St. Mary's Lutheran Church in Berlin, Germany. He received his M. Div. degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2010. He served as Vacancy Pastor at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Whiting, Indiana from 2011-2013.

In 2013, Reverend Gaugert answered a call as a career missionary to teach at a Lutheran Seminary in Dapaong, Togo (West Africa).